Tecsun PL-990 and H-501 may be the last high-end shortwave portables from Tecsun

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor from China, Mei Tao, who writes:

I would like to share the latest news about Tecsun’s New Products: the PL-990 and H-501.

These day I found that several Chinese BCLers who received the PL990 or H501 one after another–they posted many a detailed pictures of these two radios. Lots of my friends asked me when they could buy these two radios on the market.

Then I asked the Tecsun’s boss, Mr Liang.

He replied that they had begun to supply the PL-990 and H-501, but there were only a quantity of 300 in the first batch. These radios were first supplied to the subscribers who pre-ordered PL-990 or H-501 in October. Therefore other customers would have to wait for the second or the third batch. As for the foreign BCLers, I believe the wait time will be longer.

In addition, there is a bit of bad news: Mr Liang told me that PL-990 and H-501 were the last products he led the team to design, and they were his last masterpieces. In other words, the PL-990 and H-501 may be Tecsun’s last high-end portable and desktop radios. What a pity!

Thank you for sharing this, Mei Tao. Yes, that would be a pity indeed if the PL-990 and H-501 end up being the last high-end portables from Tecsun. I suppose it’s not surprising, though, as I’m sure some of the demand for shortwave radios is on the decline at the same time so many inexpensive DSP-based portables are saturating the market.

Two years ago I heard from a reliable source that Tecsun might be pulling the plug on their high-end portables, so I was quite surprised when I saw the PL-990 and H-501 announcements earlier this year. I suppose these models could be a “last hurrah” and certainly a way to mark the PRC’s 70th anniversary (as we’ve seen on some of the radios’ promotional material).

Regardless, I’m looking forward to reviewing both of these radios. Frankly, I’m quite happy a few hundred production models are in the hands of enthusiasts in China. Hopefully early adopters have given critical feedback to Tecsun so that when the first major production run is exported, the units will have been well-vetted and solid performers.

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28 thoughts on “Tecsun PL-990 and H-501 may be the last high-end shortwave portables from Tecsun

  1. Rob K

    That sounds good .

    Is the SYNC functioning in SSB here or does it work on AM signals ( upper and lower simultaneously ) as well ?

    That would be great if so.

    I think for voice – the 880 990 both need ability to turn bass down .

    I did that on the Eton E1 depending upon music or voice .

    The SYNC sounded excellent in the Video – Thanks for posting !

    990 if retail at $250. or less due to 18650 ( long use with full backlight ) .

    SYNC / good audio / Bluetooth / MP3 ( where we WANT the bass ) and other features – I am interested .
    I hope the Audio is very clean , a bit clearer than PL 880 seems to be .

    But functionally – it’s definitely a winner.

  2. Adam Ebel

    The reason why I am not that interested in spending lots of money on these receivers is that they have a special feature missing, and that is Bluetooth. I own a Tecsun PL-398 BT that I have paid way less money for and it gives me access to internet radio content and Web SDR, and Kiwi SDR content more than these radios can do, and there is no stereo patch cord required. I can even listen to my Sound Wire digital WiFi radio content using the Tecsun PL-398 BT. That’s one main reason why I am not interested in these high end epxensive portable radios. Maybe I will buy them just to have an upgrade from the Tecsun PL-880’s reception, but as for expanding access to content, I have to wait until the prices go down on these receivers. Tecsun is supposed to be an affordable radio brand, it’s not a Sangean nor it’s a Grundig / Eton brand.

    1. Brian

      All that I can find on the H-501 is what I call very basic specifications, in fact they are the same as the PL880 with the exception of no information on the BW button, that I can see on the receiver. So if it has DSP band Width control filtering, and PLL, what remains is just the same receiver as the PL880, with the added audio player and stereo speakers… somewhat disappointing for a last edition ?

      The styling is right out of the Grundig Satellit 500 – 700 radios, have a look at it’s case, very similar; the plus side could be, and it’s my wish; that the AM antenna socket is able to switch out the internal ferrite rod !! Because the specifications are not any better than the PL880 on LW – MW or SW, and the noise floor is the same as well.

      Independent sockets FM and AM; I doubt it, but without any real data and specifications to work with, the cost alone would not warrant this hefty price… just to see how it performs; for the moment I will stick with my old Lowe HF-150, it’s usable with two BW filters, and all the other bells and whistles for basic listening on my home built small dual balanced loop, from AM Long-wave to HF.

    2. Rob K

      PL 990 has Bluetooth.

      I wonder if it uses the same DSP Chip as the PL880 ?

      Can they get SYNC to work as well as PL660 or better ?

      Can the Bass be turned down for more clarity on voice broadcasts ?
      [ I love Bass on R&B but not on SSB ].

      The little PL 330 has 10 hertz fine tune and SYNC .

      I hope the PL990 has higher sensitivity and lower distortion than the smaller DSP radios seem to have.

      Even if the PL 990 is similar to PL880 spec wise – IF the SYNC works in various bandwidths – could be a great little machine if they tweak it – I suppose with SYNC on front panel they may be pressured to do so …?

  3. Andy

    Does any of the new radios (PL-330, PL-990, and H-501) support Air-Band?

    I am thinking of buying a Tecsun PL-380 for traveling (for FM and SW) and a PL-680 for SW and sometimes air-frequencies for use at home but I would still wait if the new models would be better! Especially if the new PL-330 would have SSB.

    1. Brian

      Aircraft Band: In the Tecsun range is the now long in the tooth S2000, but I don’t believe it was that hot on sensitivity… however the AM band and short-waves were reasonable for an all analogue design, had a few birdies on shortwave, but will give you external antenna input for the aircraft band, for improved reception.

  4. Mark

    I’m not surprised, to be honest the Tecsun radios were expensive for what they were.

    I have the PL-880 and S-8800 and while they are great radios the Bad distortion and AGC action on SSB is the reason I put them up for sale today and it’s the reason they were sitting on the shelf about 1 month after buying them and I turn back to the PL-660 for SSB it’s a joy to hear or the XHDATA D-808 the only issue with the 808 is overload at night with an external antenna and no attenuation. The S-8800 and PL-880 also have an issue where the 4 Khz filter does not work on my radios, different firmwares might have none of this issue but for me they are bad enough to get rid of them.

    Other than the SSB issue the S-8800 and PL-880 are great radios and the sound from the PL-880 is really good.

    One neat feature is that using external antenna on the BNC connector greatly improves MW reception with an external antenna, that’s pretty cool.

    The XHDATA D-808 has very minor distortion on SSB and is more than acceptable to live with considering the price, for the price of the PL-880 and S-8800 I would not be expecting such issues.

    I really hope the final decent radios ever made by tecsun do not have this issue and AM sync would be a real plus.

    These new radios look really old school though it’s a pity they couldn’t have designed something a little more easy on the eye for their final radios.

    They couldn’t even change the LCD for heavens sake, it’s vintage at this stage, something different, RDS ?

    I would love to see some company make SDR radios that look like normal radios with buttons and knobs, the performance should be really good and SDRs don’t have to be very expensive, telescopic antenna, decent rechargeable Li battery and DRM + RDS and waterfall would be really sweet, I don’t always want to use a computer to listen to sdr.

    1. Rob K

      I would like to see Blue instead of yellow LCDs !

      The audio on some early videos sound good on the 990 and H501 especially.

      H501 appears to use 2 18650 batteries these are very powerful charge quickly and are easy to get .

      I hope the SYNC works as well as Eton E1 .

      I hope the Eton Elite Satellit retains the Drake design in a more rugged case .

      And I hope the Tecsun H501 is almost as good .

      The jacks are probably on the top front for using Tecsun H501 with computers to process audio etc .

      I am surprised that both Tecsun and Eton are producing some final Flagship Radios though – I want to get another Flagship – I had an Eton E1 acquired a few years and sold it – great radio.

    1. Thomas Post author

      I’ve heard Tecsun is attempting to make a production run by Chinese New Year 2020 (February time frame). Keep in mind though, I’ve heard no updates as of late, so not sure if they’re still on schedule.

  5. Adam Ebel

    Now this makes sense, because Tecsun products are supposed to be affordable and reliable for hobby and travel use. Making high end portable radio equipment is only going to go so fae e and reach people who have deep pockets to spend lots of money for just 1 short wave radio receiver. Tecsun is doing the right thing and start coming out with PL series radio receivers with SSB and selectable filters with a special chipset that will make it available again, and hopefully get into making affordable receivers again with HD Radio, and DRM in the future. Making these high end portables is not going to reach everyone, only the ones who can afford high end equipment. There are better ways out there to make things accessable and reach people such myself, my friends and family who can be able to afford to listen to SW radio. I am very happy with the $22 analog portable radio called the R9012 receiver that has good sensitivity and it only takes 2 AA batteries, and this is a good example for a everyday portable SW receiver. Tecsun is not all about fancy products, they are trying their very best to look out and care for others who want to get started in the hobby in short wave radio listening, and soon Amateur Radio, maybe one day Tecsun will come out with some new affordable HF transcievers and also Base communication receivers with components that perform well and make it affordable to own in the future.

  6. Mike Bennett

    …well, if NOT Tecsun manufacturing SHORTWAVE radios anymore, than who will replace them? And what about all of this hokey about digital radio (AM-IBIQUITY, IBOC,DRM, DAB, etc.), and how far can digital waves travel compared to AM analog?

  7. Craiger11

    Wow that is somewhat surprising and then again not. Over the past few years is when I rediscovered short wave radio listening. Tecsun is the one company I grabbed and ran with as my radio of “re entry” as they offered a nice range of price and performance. Mind you I started this radio DXing back in the early 1960’s.
    Media has really changed since then. Magazines, once common items on my coffee table has been replaced by electronic viewers such as smart phone, tablet or laptop and yes… THE portable radio.
    I’ll admit that radio may not be as much fun as watching a video on the same topic. None the less… Radio is a non linear medium, one can do many things while listing to the radio. Try and perform the same tasks with any other media, RADIO beats them hands down. I love taking the time to get comfortable with the radio and tune the band(s) trying this and that.
    I must say the SDR tuners have not really stirred my soul. The DSP tuned radios are such a interesting departure from what I grew up with that it took awhile for me to embrace them, having said that I really am somewhat interested in the digital transformation in A.M. mode. Could digital be what would revive Amplitude Modulation broadcasting ? Nothing will happen if the radios that tune these new modes are not built. Back when there was a brief push for A.M. Stereo, there was just not enough to sustain that and it faded away. What ever the direction, I’ll always have some radio by my side.
    I don’t know the answer to Over The Air Digital Broadcast Band, how will that effect the world wide broadcast ?

    1. Rob K

      I don’t have definite information but I think the price of PL 990x in USA will be a tier above the PL 880 .

      Somewhere between $220. and $260.
      or possibly a little higher at first then lower as more units are available. I think they will price it to sell but not interfere with PL880 sales = not too low , not too high . Just a guess.

      With SW waning – I would like to see external AM antennas that add to and/or replace temporarily the AM internal ( *to peak and null different stations – and use bandwidth and SYNC on the stronger sideband ).

      *I hope the PL990x is tested for this ability to DX AM Broadcast Band for listening not just’ reading ‘.

      To get more varied and interesting programming for AM Talk is another project ….

  8. Mark Coady

    Yet, the innovative features developed by Tecsun and other manufacturers are not going away as they are being incorporated into today’s amateur radio HF transceivers. To keep going in shortwave radio will require getting your amateur radio license. It’s not that daunting a task. I did it!

    73 DE

    1. Andrew

      That’s really SAD news, but it wasn’t unexpected, see all in all, companies make money from “the market”, this means “end users” and if the market asks for FM/DRM/digital radios instead of seeking for analogic, “high performance” one, a company has to either adapt or disappear 🙁 that’s, in my very humble opinion, the result of spreading DRM and other modes and, at the same time, moving away from regular BC (AM and SW) radio transmissions; sure, digital modes allow more “fidelity”, less bandwidth usage and additional features, but then it’s way more “controllable” than plain “analogic” transmissions, this in turn means giving the government additional censorship power

      It’s a really SAD thing (and not just for the Tecsun decision, they’re just “going with the market”), I hope it won’t happen, but I envision a future in which we’ll see just a small number of (older and older) people using analog radio and enjoying scanning the bands, while the “mass” will go for digital and totally loose whatever real freedom of information, then, the trend will probably leave just a bunch of “pirates” which will keep running analog transmitters (and receivers) for some time, after that … silence

      Again, hope it won’t happen, but then, if you look around, my guess seems to have quite some ground

    2. Max

      You are saying that companies like Yaesu, Kenwood, Icom are using Tecsun technology…this makes me laugh.
      Then you are saying that an amateur radio licence is needed to buy one of these receivers (or transceives), this makes me laugh again…
      The high end models are disappearing just because the DXer and the SWL do not need and do not want them.

  9. Mei Tao

    it’s my pleasure to share the news with all of you. In October, i have helped Tecsun tested PL990 and compared PL990 with sony ICf-7600Gr?PL680?sangean 909X. in the meantime i made some videos which i shared with my Chinese friends.now you can see some of these videos in the youtube. then i gave Tecsun my feedback and returned PL990 to Tecsun.

    1. Gaétan Teyssonneau

      Hello Mei Tao
      I do not know how to do I would have liked to receive a free prototype of tecsun pl 990 For short waves.
      Someone who will be contacting?
      Have a good day

      1. Rob K

        Great. have seem some of the Videos

        I am glad they are beta testing .

        I am encouraged by the SYNC demonstration .

        I think a bass roll off ( lowering ) for Voice is a good idea .
        AND – for the last round of hi performance Tecsun portables-

        How about a Blue Backlight LCD ?

        Why should Tecsun listen to my suggestions ? Because I have proved that I am not a Robot 4 times !- a great accomplishment !

    2. Rob K

      Mei – I saw some of the videos and can hear that the SYNC is very good.

      How different was the noise floor ( hiss , etc) and sensitivity from the PL 880 on the version you had ?


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